ATP Sets Per Round (2014)

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Last week I wrote an
article about laying after the first set in the WTA, and analysed various scoreline scenarios with a view to identifying potential scenarios where we could find profitable entry points throughout the second set.

As an extension of that, I took a look at the ATP data in set two from a slightly different angle.

In the TennisRatings Chat Room on Saturday we discussed whether there was any kind of relationship between the round of an event and how many matches were decided in two or three sets.

Generally a match which ends in three sets will be of more preference to swing traders, with it providing the opportunity to profitably lay the winner of set one and trading out at some point during the second set, or at the end of the set.  In this situation we often see big market flips, with the market frequently over-reacting towards favouring the set two winner, usually with little statistical justification.

This discussion piqued my interest and, having previously never researched this area, I decided to check out whether we could derive any trading angles from the data.

Logically, it would follow that in the later stages of the tournament, there should be more three set matches, for several reasons.

Firstly, matches near the end of events have a smaller discrepancy of quality between opponents than a first or second round, which tend to feature more matches with heavy favourites.  

Secondly, it's much more likely that with bigger financial and ranking point rewards in the latter stages of tournaments and high level events (e.g. Masters 1000 level tournaments), it's much more of a given that players will perform with maximum effort.  This is far less guaranteed in the first round of small events in particular, with players often arriving in poor condition or tanking either from the start, or when losing, having poor motivation.

However, as I have mentioned many times, subjective assessments like this isn't enough to create profitable trading angles, and assessing statistics is a much better indicator of whether a theory can be proven.

The table below shows the 2014 ATP 2/3 set data, including last week's Metz events, filtered by the number of players in the draw/rounds of the tournament:-

28/32 player
R1 R2 QF SF F Overall %
2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
33.19 32.63 37.24 37.50 44.74
320 159 192 93 91 54 45 27 21 17 34.35
48/56/64 player
R1 R2 R3 QF SF F
2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
39.08 32.56 39.34 50.00 18.75 62.50
106 68 87 42 37 24 15 15 13 3 3 5 37.56
96 player
R1 R2 R3 R4 QF SF F
2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
45.45 37.50 35.48 43.75 0.00 50.00 50.00
36 30 40 24 20 11 9 7 4 0 1 1 1 1 40.00

The first immediate conclusion that we can draw is that the higher the number of players in an event, there is a higher propensity of three set matches, with the 28/32 man draws having 34.35% of matches decided in three sets, but this rising to 37.56% for the six round events, and 40.00% for the seven round March US Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.

With bigger fields generally being of a higher calibre with more money and more ranking points available, it would appear that this is a significant factor towards player motivation. 

Significantly greater monetary and ranking rewards are also available in the latter stages of events.  

On that basis, it's very useful to analyse the round-by-round data from events to see if we can draw any solid conclusions from the data.  The following table illustrates the 2014 ATP data, sorted by round, again up to and including last week's tournament in Metz:-

2 3 %
Final 25 23 47.92
Semi  59 31 34.44
Quarter 110 69 38.55
R16 238 124 34.25
R32 427 212 33.18
R48/56/64 146 92 38.66
R96 36 30 45.45

This data is highly valuable.  We can see straight away how frequently finals of events ended in three sets.  If there is ever going to be a match in a tournament where a player will give it all, it's obviously going to be the final, and this is borne out from the statistics.

From a 28/32 (five round tournament) perspective, we can see that the first (R32) and second (R16) rounds have the lowest percentages of three set matches and this goes along with the logical subjective assessments mentioned previously in the article which mentioned the poorer financial rewards in those matches, and the likelihood of tanking.

However, the first and second rounds of the bigger six and seven round events have much more lean towards a deciding set, with ATP players appearing much more willing to fight in these higher profile tournaments.  

Therefore, from the data, we can draw several conclusions:-

1 - Higher level tournaments produced more three set ATP matches in 2014.
2 - Later rounds produced more three set matches.
3 - The least likelihood for three set matches is in the first round of a 250 event.

This information is highly valuable for creating a trading strategy regarding laying the set one winner, or the player a set and break up in the second set.  At some point in the future I'll try and perform the same analysis for the WTA and look to see if we can draw the same conclusions for the women, as we can for the men.

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